Chef Marcela Valladolid on stereotypes about Mexico amid Independence Day celebrations: ‘Throw them out the window’

Katarina Vasquez
·3 mins read

Chef Marcela Valladolid is known for appearing on Food Network shows like Iron Chef America and Chopped, and despite her many accomplishments — which include being the first Latinx woman to host a prime-time show on the network — she finds joy in the simple things.

Valladolid, a mother of three, fills her San Diego, Calif. home — a historic beauty, built in 1912 — with unique decor, courtesy of Oaxaca, Mexico artisans. And her lush backyard is bursting with fresh ingredients, from peppers to tomatillos, that inspire her as a chef.

Longtime followers know her passion for Mexican food and culture goes deep — beginning when she was a child, working at her aunt’s cooking school in Tijuana.

Chef Marcela Valladolid wanted her table decor to defy the typical bright color pallet typically associated with Mexican celebrations, so opted for elegant touches of green and white, including candles, pots and dinnerware sourced from artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico. (Photo: Cecilia Martin Del Campo)
Chef Marcela Valladolid wanted her table decor to defy the typical bright color pallet typically associated with Mexican celebrations, so opted for elegant touches of green and white, including candles, pots and dinnerware sourced from artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico. (Photo: Cecilia Martin Del Campo)

Now she’s passing on what she knows to her fans: Amid preparations for Mexican Independence Day, on Sept. 16, Valladolid took some time out to give Yahoo Life a peek into her beautiful home and garden as she prepared a special plant-based dinner for her loved ones.

The beloved, end-of-summer holiday, sometimes confused with Cinco de Mayo is amplified by also falling within Hispanic heritage month. And it’s the perfect time to showcase rich Mexican culture and stop relying on the stereotypical vision of food and traditions, she says, advising, “Tear it up, throw it out the window and start with a blank slate.”

Children dressed for celebration pose with a Mexican flag in Valladolid's San Diego garden. (Photo: Cecilia Martin Del Campo)
Children dressed for celebration pose with a Mexican flag in Valladolid's San Diego garden. (Photo: Cecilia Martin Del Campo)

Strolling through her “magic garden,” a vast space that features everything from herbs and squash to passionfruit, she tells Yahoo Life, “This is the biggest inspiration when it comes to how I create my menus for any holiday or family celebration.” Below, through the magic of AR, you can explore a few of Valladolid’s garden boxes, below.

On her way through the garden, the chef gathers chiles and parsley before heading to the kitchen to create her version of Chiles en Nogada. The traditional dish usually features poblano peppers stuffed with meat, fruit and spices and topped with “nogada,” or walnut cream sauce, and pomegranate seeds. Marcela’s vegan version features a sweet and savory wheat-berry filling, dairy-free walnut sauce, and pomegranate seeds and parsley to finish. The bright colors of the dish are meant to represent the Mexican flag, making it one of the most emblematic dishes the culture has to offer.

Valladolid carefully plates stuffed poblano peppers before dressing them with white walnut sauce, pomegranates and fresh parsley — a plant-based version of the traditional Chiles en Nogada, with colors representing the Mexican flag. (Photo: Cecilia Martin Del Campo)
Valladolid carefully plates stuffed poblano peppers before dressing them with white walnut sauce, pomegranates and fresh parsley — a plant-based version of the traditional Chiles en Nogada, with colors representing the Mexican flag. (Photo: Cecilia Martin Del Campo)

The rest of her celebratory menu is just as impressive — including mushroom tacos with salsa and homemade marigold tortillas, and caramelized pasilla chiles filled with refried black beans — with the chef and her loved ones enjoying the special meal in a picturesque scene.

One of Valladolid's guests drizzles a caramel-colored sauce onto their plate of plant-based holiday dishes for Mexican Independence Day. (Photo: Cecilia Martin Del Campo)
One of Valladolid's guests drizzles a caramel-colored sauce onto their plate of plant-based holiday dishes for Mexican Independence Day. (Photo: Cecilia Martin Del Campo)

Displaying her thoughtfully decorated table, she says, “This dining room has definitely set the scene for some of the happiest moments in our lives,” and something tells us this celebration is a welcome addition to that list of beloved memories.

Valladolid and guests enjoy her specially-created holiday meal. (Photo: Cecilia Martin Del Campo)
Valladolid and guests enjoy her specially-created holiday meal. (Photo: Cecilia Martin Del Campo)

Video produced by Kat Vasquez

AR experience produced by Tim Chaffee

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